Dreaming of Clean Cars and Good Schools

(reflections from the first week at the Sustainability Workshop 9/9/11)

I’m not sure how many times in life we get the opportunity to realize a dream – a big dream.  I can still remember the first time it happened to me as a teacher.  Thirteen years ago my students won the Philadelphia Science Fair.  They were from West Philly – they weren’t supposed to win.  But this win did something strange to us – it gave us the freedom to dream bigger – and so we did.  Together we dreamt of an electric car – a competition vehicle that we could enter in the countries largest green “race”.  It was quite a project and over the course of the year, we worked and struggled to create this road worthy electric car. As the race drew near, I would actually dream (like when I was sleeping) that I was driving the car… and passing other cars – not only did the car work, it worked well.  That was my dream.  (I know – my dream should have been about student learning and braking stereotypes and showing what students are capable of – and yes, those were desires, but I knew that my students were doing that and would continue to do that.  There was no doubt about them, only about the car.) We had never built a road worthy electric car and since the students were doing the research, we really did not know how it would work. And then the race finally arrived and like most great racecars, this is where the car was really tested for the first time.  The second day of the competition, the route took us over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  As I made my way up the bridge, I must admit I had some doubts.  But as I slowly kept pressing the accelerator pedal further down, the car just continued to speed up – I was actually passing other cars going up this huge bridge. The feeling I had at that moment is a rare one – it happens at the birth of our children, and other than that, it happens only a few times in our lives. And then it happened again yesterday.

The Sustainability Workshop (or Workshop School) was a seedling of an idea among four us about nine years ago.  For years we slowly grew this idea and then this past year, we finally had the opportunity to make it a reality.  I won’t bore you with all the work we did for the past ten months – it was extensive.  Everything we imagined it would take to launch a small school (and more) kept us very busy.  And then it happened.  Twenty-nine students showed up Tuesday and we were standing in the middle of our dream becoming a reality.  It took about two days for the adrenaline to wear-off, and Thursday afternoon when it did, I had that feeling again – an overwhelming feeling of joy and thankfulness that brought tears to my eyes.  It was an amazing first week.